Updated: Feb 11, 2022
NOTE: Because we are talking about mental health topics, please be aware that some things we will bring up could be triggering. Topics include PTSD, death, etc.
This blog post will also include spoilers to the Netflix animated show, Violet Evergarden.
I recently watched this wonderful anime called Violet Evergarden and I want to take some time to talk about how impressed I was with their depiction of a character experiencing all sorts of really complicated things like depression, PTSD, grief, etc. There were a few episodes where I just had to pause the show just to take in how the people behind the show represented these things and how it affected the main character's mental health.
To give context, our protagonist Violet Evergarden was raised as a child soldier. One day she was put into the hands of sergeant Gilbert Bougainvillea when she was 13 and from there on, he raised her the best he can even though his brother, the person that brought Violet to him told him to use her as a tool for war because she was a very skilled soldier.
Throughout the few flashbacks that are snuck into a few episodes, and two whole flashback episodes, we get to see how Gilbert influenced her. Violet did not know many things. She did not know how to read, write, and even worse, how emotions work. Even though most of us feel like we don't even understand how emotions work, she literally can't grasp the concept of loneliness, sadness, longing, etc. And throughout the flashbacks, we see him teaching her all those things. Little by little. But sadly during a battle with a rival country, Violet lost both of her arms and Gilbert lost his life. But before he died, he told her that he loved her and that she must live a free life. Without the need to fight in the war and for her to actually become her own person. She refused to let him just lie there alone to die but he eventually pushed her out last minute, far away from him, as a building falls on top of him and that's when we cut to the present where Violet wakes up in a room where a nurse is helping her recover from her wounds.
There, she has mechanical arms implanted where her real arms were missing, was lied to about the status of Gilbert's livelihood, and her memories of him saying the words "I love you". She didn't know what those words meant, or the feelings associated with those words, but she knew that they meant something. And wanting to learn what those words meant, gave Violet purpose.
In an attempt to learn what those words meant, she picked up a job where she write letters for people who don't know how to write or put words together to tell their recipients how they feel. By taking on this job, she got better and better at understanding what different emotions are and what they mean.
As she got better and better at understanding what emotions are through other characters, she started to understand her own emotions. Before she started her job though, she was told by her boss that she was burning and that she doesn't know it yet. It puzzled Violet why he would say that to her, and she fought back against it saying that she is not burning and that she's perfectly fine. I don't know why anyone would tell someone that they're burning, but what he meant was that she's hurting and that she doesn't know it yet because she's still processing all the traumatic events that have happened to her. He knows for sure that she is experiencing it because he too was in the military and has done a lot of awful things.
Fast forward, and hopefully to my main point, is that Violet Evergarden eventually learned what her boss meant about her burning and what "I Love You" meant.
In episode 7, Violet helps a writer finish his play about a girl named Olive who was on a grand adventure. Violet later in the episode found out that it was about the playwright's daughter Olivia who tragically died from an illness after she was confronted by him when she was holding a parasol that belonged to her. By the end of the episode, Violet was able to help the playwright give his play a happy ending by finishing his story which gave Olive, who was based on Olivia, the wish she wanted to come true really badly. But that happy ending she wrote made her realize all the happy endings that she took away with her own hands. That realization broke Violet and this is when the show gets super serious and when she understand what her boss was saying when he said that she was burning. While trying to help people put their feelings into words for every episode before, she herself did so many bad things in the past. How can she ever make up for all the pain that she has put on the families that have lost loved ones due to her actions? And if it doesn't get any worse, when she got back to the office, she finds out that Gilbert, the person she cared about the most, was dead this whole time, crushing all her hopes of ever learning about what love is and telling him in person that she finally knows what his words meant.
In episode 13, during a festival where the city collects written letters that people wrote and drops them altogether from a plane, a co-worker and friend of Violet suggests that she writes a letter too and told her that it could be to the guy she couldn't stop thinking about, Gilbert.
In the letter, Violet wrote:
"Dear Major Gilbert,
Do you have any news? Are you doing well? Where are you right now? Are you having any difficulties?
Spring, summer, autumn, and winter… Many seasons have come and gone, but the one with you isn’t coming around at all. At first, I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t understand anything about how you felt. But within this new life you gave me, I’ve begun to feel the same way as you, if only a little, through ghostwriting, and through the people I‘ve met along the way. I believe that you are still alive somewhere. So, I shall live, live, live, and live some more, though there’s no telling what life might have in store. And if I can see you again, I want to let you know… that the phrase “I love you”… I understand it a little now."
Heartbreaking? I know!
Although I feel like she didn't make the direct connection and labeled her feelings towards him as LOVE, it was clear that she has always felt it. Even back in the war where she praised his eyes for being the most beautiful set of eyes, she has ever seen and that she would go wherever he may go or do whatever he tells her to do. Not as a tool of his to use, but as someone with a mind of her own ((BECAUSE SHE LOVED HIM)).
Now, we have reached the conclusion of this whole mess of a retrospective.
Violet Ever Garden the Netflix series, has done such an amazing job of portraying someone who's going through PTSD, depression, and someone that's dealing with grief. This show has tackled this the best out of every show I've ever watched.
It's also always amazing to see more and more people make works that gets people aware of their's and other people's mental health. As we can clearly see, not in just this anime but in real life that when we neglect our mental health, it can start affecting our physical body as well!
As someone who created a whole brand that's supposed to tackle these tough topics in an easy-to-digest manner, I can tell you that it's such an incredibly difficult thing to do. These kinds of topics are so complex that I feel stuck most of the time on how to do these experiences justice. And Violet Evergarden is able to do it without much hand-holding on the audience's side and I will probably always congrats them on that achievement.
So if you get the chance, please check out the short series on Netflix! There are 13 episodes and two movies!
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